Deftones’ Frank Delgado and Abe Cunningham spoke to NME backstage at Download Festival about the future of the band, the next generation of metal and 25 years of second album ‘Around The Fur’.
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This weekend saw the Sacramento metal veterans play Donington Park for the fifth time – a number matched by glam-rock icons and headliners KISS. Unlike KISS though, Deftones have no plans to retire any time soon. Or, as drummer Cunningham puts it: “Fuck no! We just sat at home for three years. We’ve got tonnes of fire to keep doing this.”
In that spirit, Delgado said that the band were “still only scratching the surface” of their acclaimed 2020 album ‘Ohms’. “It feels like we’re only just getting started,” he said. “We open with a new one as well. (‘Genesis’) is a banger and we feel it deserves the attention. It’s us putting our dick on the fucking table, basically.”
The build-up to this run of shows hasn’t been entirely smooth. In March, long-term bassist Sergio Vega announced he was quitting the band, before going on to say it didn’t offer him “a sense of belonging”. Then, following a US headline tour, guitarist Stephen Carter announced he would be sitting out of this European tour. “With everything going on in the world, I’m just not ready to leave home and leave the country yet,” read a statement.
In spite of everything, Delgado did tell NME that the band were very much “enjoying themselves”. “It feels good to be back out, doing what we‘ve always done,” he added. It’s been a lot of fun and we’re all having a blast.”
Once their European tour ends in July, Deftones are heading home to “chill for a bit”, according to Cunningham. There are plans for the third annual Dia De Los Deftones festival to take place later this November in San Diego (“but maybe it will move around one day”) alongside talk of an Australian tour. “That’s it for the year basically so maybe we’ll try and jam on some new songs,” said Cunningham. “There’s always a little something brewing”.
While 2012’s ‘Koi No Yokan’ and 2016’s ‘Gore’ saw the band get experimental with synths, ‘Ohms’ was a return to the heavy fury of their earlier work. Do the band know what direction they want to head in next?
“The next one is going to be soft as hell,” replied Cunningham, joking. “Everyone’s going to weep uncontrollably for months. There’ll be a tissue shortage around the world. “No, for better or worse, there are never any rules or preconceived thought put into much of what we create. It’s mostly just jamming it out and seeing what happens.”
He went on: “When we get together and write, it’s 70 per cent about the hang. If that’s going well, shit comes out. When it’s no longer fun, that’s a problem. There have been times like that. It’s part of being around for a long, long time, so we try to keep it on the light side these days.”
Delgado added: “It’s about working through those things, which I think we’ve got really good at. We just want to get along, have fun and something usually comes out of that.”
Heavy music is having somewhat of a resurgence at the moment, with the likes of Code Orange, Spiritbox and Poppy breathing new life into old ideas. Rather than being scared of the new, Deftones embrace it.
“It’s always good when people are able to put their best foot forward and feel like they’re fitting in, without worrying about being part of a scene,” said Delgado. “Sometimes you need to be that thorn. We were always the thing that stuck out, because we were not the same.”
He continued: “Things go in phases, but one thing that I think I noticed is that so much music uses click tracks and backing tracks these days, so there’s so much perfection, which is a trip for me because there’s never been any of that with us.
“People are so used to seeing a perfect show, they expect things to sound exactly like the record but there’s something about a raw, visceral performance with tension that will always speak to some people. Others might say it sounds like shit but in a time when everything sounds and looks so perfect, I think some warts and all are important.”
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This year also marks the 25th anniversary of Deftones’ acclaimed second album ‘Around The Fur’. Not that the band have any plans to celebrate just yet – they didn’t even know about the milestone until NME told them.
“Making that album was the most amazing time,” said Cunningham. The band had signed a two-firm record deal, meaning they were guaranteed a second album regardless of how their debut did. “With that first record, we were able to see a tiny bit of the world and we came back that much more confident and comfortable. There was just this excitement that we got to do it again.
“I can’t listen to our first record, because we just sound like a young band. We still play those songs live and we enjoy them, but ‘Around The Fur’ just sounds so much better. That 25-year-old album is a very special record. I really like it, so I will definitely give it a piece of cake and a cheers but honestly, I’d rather work on some new tunes if we can.”
So what does the future of Deftones look like? “Hopefully onwards and upwards, replied Cunningham. “We’re happy as hell to be here right now. We’re super stoked to be able to do this and we’re really enjoying ourselves.”
Delgado then added: “We’re having fun and looking forward to the future, without it feeling like a burden on anyone.”
Deftones play an intimate show at London’s O2 Forum Kentish town before a summer of festivals including Mad Cool, HellFest and InMusic. Visit here for tickets and more information.
Meanwhile, frontman Chino Moreno is preparing to release a slew of more singles and a new album from his art-rock side-project ††† Crosses.